A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
(Oprah's Book Club)

79%

16 Critic Reviews

But Dina and the tailors, who have learned ``to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair,'' keep going. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Rohinton Mistry

See more books from this Author
Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay and now lives near Toronto. His first novel, Such a Long Journey, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received, among other awards, the Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book of the Year. A Fine Balance is his second novel, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction, the Giller Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize as well as a Booker Prize finalist. Mistry is also the author of Swimming Lessons, a collection of short stories.
 
Published July 9, 2010 by Vintage. 628 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Children's Books, History, Education & Reference. Fiction
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Critic reviews for A Fine Balance
All: 16 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on May 20 2010

But Dina and the tailors, who have learned ``to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair,'' keep going. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 27 2015

Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Hannah Booth on Aug 17 2011

A great novel can transport you from one country to another. But reading one in its home country does something greater still. Being in India intensified my joy at this vast, heartbreaking and compassionate book, and it in turn deepened my experience of India.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by George Partington on Jun 06 2003

Dave Eggers can joke about it, but heartbreaking works of staggering genius are still produced, and “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry is one. That’s my humble opinion, anyway...But, a la Steinbeck, the common man and woman endure, finding refuge and humanity through solidarity, through acts of kindness and love.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Lorina Stephens on Jun 14 2011

If you have never read any of Rohinton Mistry’s work, I recommend you do. While certainly A Fine Balance, is not a story I would recommend for a cheery, uplifting bit of escape, it is very much a story that will haunt you and linger long after the telling.

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Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Shankar Vedantam on Jun 10 1996

The deft touch Mistry displayed in "Such a Long Journey" is still evident. He has an eye for the lovely detail, the undercurrents of friendships, the tugs in parent-child relationships.

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Book Buzz

Good
Reviewed by Gloria Fogal on Apr 06 2009

It is the novelist’s skill that keeps us involved to the very end. I echo my plane companion’s assessment who said, “I didn’t want the book to end.”

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Oprah.com

Good
Reviewed by asha66 on Nov 30 2001

I would definitely recommend the book to others and I hope they can all look beyond the corruption, filth and adversity and see that the book is more about the human spirit and its struggle to prevail under any circumstances.

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India Today

Above average
Reviewed by Shashi Tharoor on Mar 15 1996

The novel unfolds the story of their troubles, but A Fine Balance is no cataloguer of unrelieved grimness. Tragedies occur...but they occur as part of a rich and varied spectacle, full of wisdom and laughter and the touches of the unexpectedly familiar through which literature illuminates life.

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Brothers Judd

Good
Reviewed by brothersjudd on Jun 27 2001

It amply demonstrates that native rule is no panacea for the ills of the Third World...it is ideas--such as freedom; and equality under the law; and opportunity--which really matter and which provide the setting in which people, such as those so lovingly portrayed here, can maintain their balance and realize their dreams.

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Vulpus Libris

Above average
Reviewed by Jackie on Jan 28 2008

Following the four of them as they navigate the troubles and joys of life and all they meet is riveting. The author’s style flows effortlessly, with occasional flashes of poetry. Because of this, it has a quiet, but powerful impact.

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Everyday eBook

Good
Reviewed by Lauren Hayes on Apr 26 2012

A Fine Balance is a haunting tale of morality, struggle, perseverance, and ultimately, love...With beautiful prose, Rohinton Mistry takes you into the lives of four people with such great detail, it would be nearly impossible to forget their stories...A Fine Balance will change the way you think.

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Words to Read By

Good
Reviewed by sbk on Aug 12 2012

Well, this novel was certainly eye-opening...Mistry's novel is set in India in 1975 and focuses on four individuals who form an unlikely friendship...I loved the narrative structure of this novel. Mistry opens the book with all four characters meeting for the first time, and then begins to tell each individual's family stories...

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A Striped Armchair

Above average
Reviewed by Eva on Aug 04 2010

My experience with the book formed a kind of curve…at the beginning I felt a bit ‘murgh,’ then I settled into it, then for a couple hundred pages (around page 300-500) I really loved it, and then the last hundred pages made me feel horribly depressed, which I resented.

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http://allreaders.com

Above average
Reviewed by David Loftus on Aug 15 2015

India's history, from independence from the British Raj in 1947 to Indira Gandhi's crushing repression with the so-called national Emergency in 1975, places a quiet but ongoing backdrop to these stories. Mistry's rich, complex, and beautiful 1996 novel is like a Dickens book set in India, about the humor and degradation in the life of the poor.

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https://thehungryreader.wordpress.com

Above average
Reviewed by thehungryreader on Jul 24 2009

Mistry also manages to maintain a fine balance of his own. He blends bad luck with a dash of hope, egging us on – only to dash our expectations with a new set of conflicts and troubles... The novel is a symphony of corruption, cruelty, hope, desire, kindness and despair.

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